Fabulous story about a RI homeschooler
Burrillville boy sees the light, becomes national finalist
07:25 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 2, 2009
BY PETER B. LORDJournal Environment Writer
Hugh Finch, 11, of Burrillville, is a finalist in a $50,000 science contest sponsored by Discovery Communications and 3M.
The Providence Journal / John Freidah
BURRILLVILLE — Sitting on top of the kitchen counter at home, 11-year-old Hugh Finch made a two-minute video about using the principles of light to brighten his mother’s cabinets. That video helped him become a finalist in a national science competition that awards a $50,000 savings bond to the winner.
The project was to solve a problem for his mother — she frequently has to use a flashlight to find items in her kitchen cabinet. His solution was to redirect sunlight from a window to illuminate the dark corner.
In his video, Hugh discusses how light travels in straight lines, plus principles of reflection and diffusion. In his solution, he lined the cabinet with white paper, and covered the inside of the door with aluminum foil. When he moved the door to the appropriate angle, it reflected sunlight into the cabinet and brightened all of its contents.
After adjusting the door, Hugh looks at the camera and says, “There’s light — problem solved.”
Hugh is one of 10 finalists nationally who will compete in New York in October in the 2009 Discovery/3M Young Scientist Challenge for the savings bond and the title of “America’s Young Scientist.”
This is the third year for the program. It encourages young people to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings. The prize is a collaboration between Discovery Communications, which operates the Discovery Channel and other educational initiatives, and 3M, a corporation that invests heavily in research and development to create new products.
In January, students across the country were asked to create one- or two-minute videos about one of four science concepts that relate to innovative solutions for everyday life.
Hugh, who is home-schooled by his mother, Theresa, learned of the contest last year while watching the Discovery Channel. He was too late to enter then, but he was ready to go this January, says his mother.
His mother says she helped with the video, but brought no particular expertise to the job. Hugh did the research on the principles of light at his local library, she says.
She home-schools Hugh, she says, because he is very bright and she can go as fast as he wants with his strengths of math and science. He is not so successful at essay writing, she says, so they slow down so he can improve.
In his biography on the contest Web site, Hugh says he and his brother “sometimes make Lego animation movies for fun.” He also is a gymnast, swimmer, karate student and member of the Rhode Island Children’s Choir, he reports.
Hugh is gifted with words, his mother says. She recalls that when he was in kindergarten, he had no trouble speaking his part in a classroom play.
“He knows what he wants to say, and he just rattles it off,” says his mother. She has a master’s degree in finance, and her husband, Derick, works for the CSX freight rail line. She home schools another child, Peter, who is 7.
When the news came one evening that Hugh was a finalist, she says, she was so excited that she got him out of bed so he could hear for himself.
Hugh acknowledged that the award made him very happy, but he said doing the video was harder than it looks.
It took a week to do all the research and filming.
In the end, he said, “It’s just a piece of tin foil on the door.”
To see the work by Hugh and other competitors, go to: www.youngscientistchallenge.com.